Challenging Lynley Hood's book

Challenging Kim McGregor's book

1st September 2003
Challenging Lynley Hood's book
By Kim McGregor

Kim McGregor
Research Fellow

Injury Prevention Research Centre
School of Population Health
Private Bag 92019
University of Auckland
76 Symond St

Phone (09) 3737-599 xtn 86351
Fax  (09) 3737057

Hi friends and colleagues,

I don't know about you but after reading Emma Davies and Jeffrey Masson's article in the Herald on Monday my thought was FINALLY someone has found the time to challenge Hood's book. I know many of us have wanted to do it for some time but for me...... pressure of work.... same old, same old backlash etc..... Yet, I have felt guilty for not doing more public challenging of inaccuracies I see printed in the paper. This guilt is often stirred when clients ask me "Why don't other experts challenge those who attack (often through the media) survivors of child sexual abuse and those who work in the field". My answer is often - we are all too exhausted working in the field, doing the work, as well as dealing with agency and institutional challenges.

My hope this week however is that Emma and Jeff's article will have made it possible for many of us to 'chip in' with small challenges. It would be nice, for example, to see a wide range of colleagues and experts such as child development experts, and legal experts (not just the usual experts who work in this field) join in at this point to challenge just a few of the inaccuracies and misconceptions that continually flow from the 'backlash industry' (often through the media).

I liked the way Emma and Jeff only challenged the research in the first three chapters of Hood's book. I think their approach has provided a model that each of us can work with.  None of us individually can challenge this current backlash wave alone but if we all stick to our area of knowledge and expertise and pose just one question each then we will be supporting each other, and will be harder to ignore or attempt to discredit.

This email is not an attempt to guilt trip anyone into print who doesn't feel comfortable - and I do know that most of you on this email have fought the good fight many times before - I just wondered if each of us did something small and manageable - all at the same time - what could we achieve together??

If you think this email is useful feel free to pass it on to your trusted colleagues.


Vol 2 Number 1
Jan-Feb 1995

Book Review

of Truth"
Kim McGregor (1993),
University of Otago Press,

Warriors of Truth is a self-help book for "sexual abuse survivors" written by an Auckland sexual abuse counsellor, herself a "survivor" of childhood abuse. She was assisted in writing it by grants from the McKenzie Foundation and Ministry of Women's Affairs. The book is of very similar ilk to Courage to Heal (which McGregor highly recommends), and other books of this type from the United States.

McGregor believes that memories of childhood sexual trauma may be totally blocked and later retrieved in therapy, including hypnosis, and through dreams and "flashbacks". She advocates always believing the victim, claiming that expressing any doubt is denial and may retraumatise the victim. Women can go for therapy whether they have any memories or not, they may accumulate a "knowing" they have been sexually abused but may never find out who the perpetrator was or what he did.

Until they retrieve their memories, many women may have been pretending to themselves that they had a wonderful family who loved them. She warns these women that their alleged offenders and other family members may turn against them and deny the events if confronted. When confronting an "offender", she recommends controlling the situation so that he is given no opportunity to respond. She emphasises that victims have a right to their anger, which she describes as a "positive energy", and does not advocate forgiveness. Many women may find it necessary to break all contact with their "family of origin" and form a "chosen family" of supportive friends. She also suggests telling (even anonymously) the alleged offender's family, friends, employer and colleagues about the abuse.

Whilst some of McGregor's advice may be helpful to genuine incest victims, she does not appear to consider the possibility that some women's memories may not represent actual events, and that unchallenging belief and encouragement may contribute to the generation of false memories. This is particularly likely given her endorsement of "memory retrieval" therapists and her literal interpretation of dreams and "flashbacks". None of the substantial literature and research on memory recall and hypnosis is discussed or referenced.

Much of McGregor's information and advice is likely to contribute to the generation of false memories by vulnerable women who may read this book.

It is not recommended.